Sunday, 16 August 2009

Culture Wars - T Is For Television

And my choice for the finale of this week of culture is 'The West Wing'.

What, you say, the Democrat-centric US series beloved of liberals and lefties across the globe? Where is JuliaM and how have you gained access to her blog?!

Well, it's simple.

It's great TV, great acting, great writing, and some of the most balanced political drama you are ever likely to see. Yes, it centres on a Democrat administration winning three consecutive elections over its seven-series span, but it isn't as black and white as you might think. Barlett is a truly flawed President, not a can-do-no-wrong character you might expect. His staff aren't the whiter-than-white characters you may assume them to be either - they are arrogant, passionate, clumsy, foolish, brave, disloyal and unlucky in equal measures - in short, human.

Plenty of Dems are shown to be as venal and corrupt (and stupid!) as the Repubs, and the finale to season five sees a very human portrayal of the Republican Speaker, Glen Allen Walken, who takes the reins as the President's daughter is kidnapped and does a great job of holding the administration together.

It's often lauded as a liberals wet dream of a TV series, and though I disliked the politics of most of the main characters, it was cracking and utterly unmissable TV right up to the very end.

Here's one of my favourite scenes, from the end of season two, as Bartlett has to make a decision, following the revelation of his covered-up MS, whether or not to run again. The senior staff assemble to watch him take the podium, even his Chief of Staff (played by the incomparable and sadly missed John Spencer) unaware of his decision, as his Press Secretary points out to him the 'friendly' journo primed to ask a non-threatening question:

No better introduction to the quirks and foibles of the US political system exists, or is ever likely to be made...

And here ends our week of culture. Thanks to NorthNorthwester for suggesting this meme, and I hope you've all gained something from it, even if - like me - it's just a bigger Amazon shopping list!


Anonymous said...

Excellent work... totally agree with your analysis.

Who's your favourite?

I'm a fan of Toby, even if I hate his politics.


JuliaM said...

At first, it was Charlie, but then I started to like Leo more and more.

You know it's a good series when you like a character in spite of their politics. Just like in real life. :)

pipmk said...

It simply amazes the rest of the world,who remember outnumber you many time, that a country founded on revolution should have become so deluded that "Liberal" is a dirty word. The bigotry exhibited by the religeous right is also worse than the most fanatic Muslim. When will Americans learn to love their brothers instead of seeing them as someone to exploit?